Next Patristics Carnival

The next quarterly Patristics Carnival, covering December 2006 through February 2007 will be hosted here in the first week of March. Please submit your entries either to my email listed in the right column of this page, or through the submissions page. I’ll receive them either way.

See Phil Snyder’s weekly Patristic Roundups over at hyperekperissou. Enjoy!


          ‘So run that ye may obtain.’

One step more, and the race is ended;
     One word more, and the lesson’s done;
One toil more, and a long rest follows
     At set of sun.

Who would fail, for one step withholden?
     Who would fail, for one word unsaid?
Who would fail, for a pause too early?
     Sound sleep the dead.

One step more, and the goal receives us;
     One word more, and life’s task is done;
One toil more, and the Cross is carried
     And sets the sun.

Christina Georgina Rossetti, before 1886.

Slavonic Pseudepigrapha Project

Andrei Orlov of Marquette University, author of From Apocalypticism to Merkabah Mysticism: Studies in the Slavonic Pseudepigrapha (Brill, 2007), has published an extremely helpful, interesting and well-done website, The Slavonic Pseudepigrapha Project. I’ll give you three guesses as to what it’s about….

He provides numerous bibliographies (from his book), texts, translations, articles, and links to grammars and other resources related to the Slavonic pseudepigrapha. It’s fascinating and well done, and I can’t wait to lose myself in it.

It’ll be particularly interesting also religiously, as, being Eastern Orthdox myself and with Slavonic being one of the Church languages, the ties of these pseudepigrapha to Russian Orthodoxy will no doubt be fascinating to investigate and learn of, as well as any connections to particularly the Bogomil heresy, links to background material on which Andrei provides, indicating something very interesting in store in that regard.

A side project I’ve been interested in starting for some time is investigating the potential relationship of the post-NT apocrypha and pseudepigrapha to various theological controversies in the history of the Church, with the working hypothesis that the various apocrypha and pseudepigrapha were written by either side in order to support a particular position through the convenient validation of pseudepigraphy. This sometimes comes up briefly in discussions on the origins of various individual works, but I have yet to see all such information on all such pseudepigrapha collected into one convenient source for all the Greek, Syriac, Slavic, etc, pseudepigrapha in conjunction with detailed discussions of the theological controversies. It’s a potentially extremely fruitful approach not only for narrowing down the dates of the creation of the works, but also their locations, as many individual theological controversies were in fact quite localized.

In any case, my regards and thanks to Andrei Orlov for his magnificent new website.

A winter chill

A bitter wind gusts in the face,
skritching leaves along the walk.
Soak-sodden pants whip at the legs
of the dying man who balked
at love and faith throughout his life.
Now with his final gasped breath born,
unknown, unwept, unloved, unmourned,
no child, no friend, no loved wife,
and regretting lost days gone,
but most his waste of time and place,
he falls his way to that clayey home,
bereft entire of both love and grace.

Fear of the Lord

Let us fear the Lord not less than we fear beasts. For I have seen men who were going to steal and were not afraid of God, but, hearing the barking of dogs, they at once turned back; and what the fear of God could not achieve was done by the fear of animals.

St John Climacus, The Ladder of Divine Ascent, Step One,

The Lord is my Shepherd

Here is a collection of translations of Psalm 23 (in the Hebrew-based count of Psalms, but Psalm 22 in the LXX-based count of Psalms), including a couple that are not widely available.

King James Version
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
He leadeth me beside the still waters:
He restoreth my soul:
He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His Name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me;
Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies:
Thou anointest by head with oil;
my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life:
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord fore ever.

Continue reading “The Lord is my Shepherd”

McDonald’s Biblical Canon

Consider this an explanation of the reason that I’ve yanked a 500+ page book out of my “Currently Reading” slot on the blog, after having read not even 100 pages. The book is Lee Martin McDonald’s The Biblical Canon: Its Origin, Transmission, and Authority (Hendrickson, 2007). I’m just not enjoying this book. In fact I’m finding it hard to read. I blame the editor. Its argumentation is diffuse and meandering. The writing is peppered with infelicities of expression, quizzical solecisms, and astounding propositions.

An example of a quizzical solecism: “These stelae, from around 600 B.C.E. to roughly 300 B.C.E., are quite uniform in style, progressing from one-dimensional to two-dimensional and finally three-dimensional stelae” [pp 39-40]. Now, I suppose he means the artistic depictions on the stelae go from painted (?) to bas relief (?) to sculpture in round (?), but that’s not what he says. A one- or two-dimensional stele is a physical impossibility.

As an example of an astounding proposition:

Along with the Prophets, a body of literature, some of which was written well before 200 B.C.E. and some perhaps even later (e.g., Daniel), circulated widely among the Jews. These writings circulated in Palestine and were later translated from Hebrew into Greek

That is enough for perdition

Academic theology is not enough for salvation. Read especially the ascetic Fathers. From them you will learn true theology, the right attitude of the mind and heart where God is concerned.

Pure prayer is not given to those who study a lot. In that sense, the path of academic theology is hardly effective, and can rarely lead to pure prayer.

God can touch the spirit of man and give him, directly and immediately, knowledge of Himself. There is a great difference between this knowledge and that which is acquired in theological schools. It can be very dangerous to do theology without having an existential experience of life in the spirit of Christ. One risks, in fact, turning the study of theology, especially in its apophatic forms, into a subject like philosophy or poetry. One risks adopting a false attitude, thinking oneself superior, and that is enough for perdition. In our life in Christ, it is another kind of inspiration that we must seek.

Theological science, which is taught in academic institutions and has become an intellectual specialisation open to all, does not give knowledge of God. Knowledge of God comes from life in God, which is born in the deepest place of the heart.

One can be a great scholar, with academic qualifications, and yet remain completely ignorant about the path of salvation.

Archimandrite Sophrony (Sakharov). Words of Life. (Stavropegic Monastery of St John the Baptist, 1998). Selected “Extracts from spiritual talks,” from pages 40, 41, and 42.

Like the sands of their own deserts

The spoilers are come upon all high places through the wilderness. The robbers shall enter into it, &c. [Jeremiah 12.12; 7.22]
The land of Israel has not only been given into the hands of strangers for a prey, and unto the wicked of the earth for a spoil, as foreign nations have successively subjugated and despoiled it; but it has also been the prey of bordering marauders, to whose assaults it has for ages been exposed. “These precautions, on the part of travellers, are above all necessary in the countries exposed to the Arabs, such as Palestine and the whole frontier of the desert.” [Volney’s Travels, vol. ii. p. 417.] “The Arabs are plunderers of the cultivated lands, and robbers on the highroads. —On the slightest alarm the Arabs cut down their (the peasants’) harvests, seize their flocks, &c. The peasants with good cause call them thieves. The Arab makes his incursions against hostile tribes, or seeks plunder in the country or on the highways. He became a robber from greediness, and such is in fact his present character. A plunderer rather than a warrior, the Arab attacks only to despoil.” [Ibid. chap. xxiii.] Such is the systematic spoliation and robbery to which the inhabitants of Palestine have been subjected for ages. Mr Stanley’s testimony may here be added: “In Greece and Italy and Spain, it is the mountainous tract which is beset with banditti—the level country which is safe. In Palestine, on the contrary, the mountain tracts are comparitively secure, though infested by villages of hereditary ruffians here and there; but the plains, with hardly an exception, are more or less dangerous . . . . The Bedouin tribes are the corsairs of the wilderness. Far up in the plains of Philistia and Sharon come the Arabs of the Tîh; deep into the centre of Palestine, into the plain of Esdraelon, especially when the harvest has left the fields clear for pasturage, come the Arabs of the Haurân and of Gilead. But now, like the sands of their own deserts which engulph the monuments of Egypt, no longer defended by a watchful and living population, they have broken in upon the country far and near; and in the total absence of solitary dwelling-places—in the gathering together of all the settled inhabitants into villages, and in the walls which, as at Jerusalem, enclose the cities round, with locked gates and guarded towers—we see the effect of the constant terror which they inspire.” [Stanley, pp. 135, 136.]

The Rev Alexander Keith. Evidence of the Truth of the Christian Religion Derived From the Literal Fulfilment of Prophecy: Particularly As Illustrated by the History of the Jews and by the Discoveries of Recent Travellers. Thirty-Ninth Edition. London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1872. Pages 189-190. Emphasis his.